Teaching in Lohne/Oldenburg

There is a small and very friendly Tango community in Lohne, just South of Oldenburg where I’ve been invited to teach a one-day workshop. We arrive a day early to join the dancers for their Summer open air Milonga. I love it how everybody celebrates Summer in their own unique way: this town, miles away from the sea, has created a little sandy ‘beach’ at a central point, complete with deck chairs to lounge in. Well, really, it’s just an oversized sand pit, but still, it’s in the middle of town and young and old enjoy it. the outdoor Milonga has some live music – an Argentine pianist from Bremen – and people dance enthusiastically until past midnight.


The workshop next day is fully booked and they all work very hard. We are literally in the middle of Nowhere, on a pig farm, dancing Tango! Gertrud, our amazing host, explains that actually we are in the middle of everywhere – people travel for up to an hour and a half from all directions to come here, and as it’s near a motorway, it’s easily accessible for everyone. Small Tango scenes always remind me of our beginning years in Devon, and there is something in that which is irretrievably lost once the scene grows bigger. Just like little children grow up and never return to that early stage.


At the end of an afternoon of teaching, learning, laughing, chatting and sharing delicious cakes, Frank and I return to Emma to find her humming with flies inside! Note to self: Don’t leave windows open on a pig farm, unless you want to perfect your swatting technique – we spent the next two days swatting several thousand flies.


We leave Lohne extremely well fed and rested, thanks to Gertrud, our very attentive host, and we look forward to returning in October for a weekend of workshops.

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A couple of years ago, while in Paris, I was looking for someone to repair my bandoneon. I wrote to a bandoneon Yahoo group: ‘Looking for a good quality repairer/restorer of bandoneons, in or near Paris’ – within minutes I had the reply: ‘the nearest GOOD one is Rocco in Oldenburg’. Well, that’s some recommendation, at over 700km distance!


I happen to have a cousin who lives in Oldenburg, so we combine visiting her and her family with taking the bandoneon for an overhaul.

We find a lovely car park for our overnight stays, just on the outskirts, near a lake and a train line. It seems the train line goes from a car factory to somewhere: long trains with hundreds of brand new cars on them pass by several times a day. To Frank’s surprise (and mine too, really), I turn into a train spotter. I find it fascinating just how many new cars roll past us, and where do they go to? What can you do with more than 1500 new cars per day? I imagine the production and the loading to make this happen. There is something unrelenting about it, something so drastically materialistic, it’s eerie. Especially when they continue to rumble past in the dead of night and on weekends.


Oldenburg celebrates Summer with a month-long music festival. The main square by the baroque castle, in the centre of town, is filled with people of all generations and backgrounds, listening to music in the open air. We also drop in on the opening evening of the Oldenburg Tango Festival. Although we have not been here before, I recognise at least 40 out of the 100 people. The Tango world is so small…

We also meet young Lotta who lives in Oldenburg – she was a helper at the Tango Mango a couple of years ago. It’s lovely to see her, she is such a lively person, full of energy and zest for what’s ahead of her. We swap some travelling stories – she’s recently been to Russia and various other places.

In my cousin’s house big bellies are being compared: two of her daughters are pregnant, one with twins. We share meals, catch up on family stories and I spend one afternoon delving into deep conversation with Gesine, one of the daughters, about family dynamics.


Rocco takes a week to repair my bandoneon, and he does a great job. While we are there, we hatch an idea for a Bandoneon Festival some time next year. One week, just for bandoneons… we’ll create Bandoneon Heaven, for players of different levels, with international teachers, and also with a bandoneon maintenance workshop, so that we learn how to treat the little ailments of our instruments.

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